The Kingston High School varsity boys’ basketball team will look to defend their Section IX, Class AA title this season, one year removed from a 21-3 overall record and a first-ever visit to the state final four. And they’ll have to do it in 2019-20 without four of last season’s starters.
Ron Kelder, heading into his 24th consecutive season as the Tigers’ head coach, is no stranger to finding success following significant roster changes, a routine challenge in high school athletics.
“Every year’s the same,” Kelder said. “We’re preparing to be the best team possible. This group is definitely a little different than last year’s group, and we really only have two returning players that had gotten a lot of minutes. So it’s a fresh start for a lot of guys.”
On Monday, the Tigers hosted Green Tech High School, a charter school in Albany, for the first scrimmage of the season. Kelder liked what he saw on the court.
“It was a good scrimmage, and we’re going to continue to improve and grow as a team and understand each other,” he said.
The Tigers head into the season having lost to graduation key players from the 2018-19 team, including Brian Moore, Daivel Jackson, Jimmy Moot and Garrett Warnecke. The 2019-20 team includes seniors Daiveyon Jackson (forward), Kaeshawn Brodhead (forward), Chapman Parker (forward), Brady Short (guard), Dylan Perry (guard) and Pheonix Rios (guard); juniors Shy’quan Royal (guard), Ameer Rolle (guard), ShaCorey Jones (guard), Dustin Knox (guard) and Clayton Patillo (guard); and sophomore Chris Whitaker, a 6-foot-7 center.
“We’re pretty quick but we’re limited in our size,” said Kelder. “But hopefully we can make up for that in our quickness and fundamentals defensively. The biggest challenge for us is going to be rebounding the basketball against bigger, longer teams. And we had a scrimmage (against Green Tech) that gave us a good look at that last night cause we probably played one of the most athletic and lengthy teams that we’re going to see all year.”
While the lineup is different, Kelder said he hopes to see the 2019-20 Tigers play with some of the same qualities the team showed one season ago.
“They were very together and very unselfish and they shared the ball and things like that,” he said. “And they were very connected defensively. And that’s where we’ve got to be with this group, just trying to walk in the gym every day and get better.”
Kelder said the schedule is still a work in progress, though the season opener at home against Warwick on Tuesday, Dec. 3 is set in stone. From there they’ll keep busy for over two months, playing three of their final four regular season games at Kate Walton Field House, including a Valentine’s Day matchup against rival Newburgh Free Academy on Friday, Feb. 14. The final game of the regular season is a visit to Washingtonville on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and from there, who knows?
“Our goal every year is to win the last game we play, you know what I mean?” Kelder said. “I mean, I can’t make it much more simple than that. We try to improve every day and try to be in position to win your last game.”